|Issue No. 251
|11 February 2005
Economics: Super Seduction
Interview: Bono and Me
Unions: The Eight Hour Day and the Holy Spirit
Technology: From Widgets to Digits
Education: Dumb and Dumber
Health: No Place for the Young
History: The Work-In That Changed a Nation
Review: Dare to Win
Poetry: Labor's Dreaming
The Locker Room
Morals Beat Hasty Retreat
Uncounted Cost Of Asbestos
Voting Farce Expands
I Beg To Differ
Letters to the Editor
I Beg To Differ
Pat Conroy's rejection (Workers Online #250) of Tom Bramble's analysis on the change in popular thinking in Australia is unjustified.
Tom wasn't saying that the shifts he was highlighting would be reflected in changed electoral behaviour in the short term (though his case wasn't helped by his
over-estimation of the Green vote in October).
He did, however, demonstrate that there have been considerable changes in some important indicators of
basic social attitudes.
The task is to consider the relationship between these changes and recent election results.
Take the "social services vs tax cuts" debate. The Right has been dismissing survey results saying that people prefer increased social services to tax cuts by attributing them to the desire of respondents not to
While this may be a factor influencing the result of any
one survey, it doesn't explain the strong shift over time in the direction of wanting more social services.
You'd have to argue that the "guilty conscience" factor was increasing as time went on, something which is not intuitive in a time when the papers and the air waves are dominated by a\ handful of free-market ideologues in the pay of the media barons.
Similarly, the rise of the Greens is not just a re-hash of the Democrats.
They are significantly to the Left of their now-eclipsed rivals and, in the recent election campaign, came under some heavy fire from the usual suspects on the Right - something that never happened to the Chippocrats.
The two factors together signify a hardening of opposition to Howard, though it would be unwise to overestimate its current extent.
The question of the relationship between changes in public opinion & electoral shifts in the other direction should be resolved by looking at
In particular, we should consider the lack of a coherent
ideology on the Left.
The Left these days has no coherent ideology.
This means that specific proposals are less comprehensible to most people and are more subject to misrepresentation.
Further, it means that opposition to the Right is piecemeal, reactive and, in many ways, just plain conservative. The Right know what they're on about & propagate their line consistently (or, at least, as consistently as the inconsistency of their logic allows), while the Left has no collective sense of what it stands for.
This intellectual vacuum on the Left didn't come out of nowhere (pardon the pun).
It is the product of the simultaneous collapse of the two major Left intellectual traditions of the 20th Century - social democracy & Stalinism.
Social democracy failed because mixed capitalist economies can no longer be nationally regulated to deliver a rough equality in living standards and a
substantial social wage.
Globalisation has put paid to that, since employers now build their factories in a global labour market - and
financial markets will shift fortunes immediately on these judgements, rather than wait for existing facilities to depreciate.
Stalinism failed because police states can't innovate and bureaucrats can't plan.
Workers in the late, unlamented USSR went on the world's biggest go-slow in response to the r�gime they were saddled with, while workers in the West (including
Australia) stopped putting their hands up for a dose of the same as they slowly realised what was goin!
g on there.
And to top it off, the small Trotskyist groups offering their alternative have been so undemocratic that their major achievement so far has been to generate a considerable number of ex-members who think they're
little better than the Stalinists.
With the collapse of Stalinism and social democracy, the Right no longer feel compelled to offer either a morally superior alternative or piecemeal
With no social vision to put demands or objectives in context, the labour movement lacks confidence & cohesion.
So, the Right stays on the offensive and continues to win victories in elections and on specific
issues, while public opinion turns against them on their core values.
Sooner or later (and the sooner the better, in my opinion), the gap between working people and the Right will be filled by resistance on the ground
rather than media-induced confusion.
Resistance will start without a conscious ideology, but workers will reflect on their experience in the
struggle and draw conclusions from that.
Further, because of the undemocratic reputation of Stalinism, workers will insist on maintaining
directly democratic control of their organisations of struggle.
The Left will re-emerge, but it will look very different from the one the "Communist" Party dominated for decades.
And I'll be doing my bit to contribute to the
development of its ideology.
So, the news isn't good for the ALP's prospects in the next election, since the trends Tom Bramble has analysed are more "subterranean" than how people
will vote, but they're no less real for that.
The lying rodent might keep winning elections, but he's teaching people the consequences of his
Giving way to hatred, greed and fear harms most of the population, including most workers who vote for it, and it's that reality therapy that's creating a new constituency for the Left.
Let's start organising resistance on the ground, and let the pollies try to catch up with us.
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